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Eating food in China, Greece, India: taste, the humours and the Cosmos

Chaired by Dr. Yue Zhuang

In his talk, Professor John Wilkins will explore ideas of food and health in Greek and Chinese thought. There are of course many differences between the two cultures, and indeed the Ayurvedic system in India. But they share an idea of the human being within a cosmic system, of the human body having a relationship with the elements that make up the world, and of the dynamic properties that foods and drugs exert on the human body when we eat and drink. There is also a shared notion of harmony in the human body and more widely which corresponds with health and good order. He will give a presentation on how the Greeks (Aristotle and Galen) thought that health was maintained, with a particular focus on taste and the four humours.

Event details

We welcome the audience to contribute from their own perspectives. Although the time period covered in Professor Wilkins’s talk will be 350 BC to 250 AD, the principles will apply to any period, including the present that is interested in a holistic system of medicine.

Professor John Wilkins is a specialist in the history of food and medicine in Greco-Roman culture, with current interests in literature (eg comic drama) and medicine (especially nutrition).  The texts he is currently working on are the Deipnosophistae (Philosophers at Dinner) of Athenaeus and On Maintaining Good Health of Galen, both written in the last 2nd/early 3rd centuries AD, at a time when Greek authors were reviewing the previous millennium of Greek culture.

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Professor John Wilkins


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